The difference between alzheimer’s and dementia
People often confuse the term Alzheimer’s and Dementia and take them as two similar diseases. However, Alzheimer’s and Dementia are entirely different conditions that shouldn’t be mistaken as same. While Dementia refers to a group of symptoms, a syndrome and not a specific disease, Alzheimer’s is a disease that forms a part of dementia. It is the most common type of Dementia which occurs due to the weakening of the brain cells and causes impairment of the memory and cognitive functions. Dementia, on the other hand, is a broader concept of which Alzheimer’s is a part of. It affects mental, cognitive tasks like reasoning and memory. The term Dementia is the name of a group of brain disorders that make thinking difficult, memory weak, affects our reasoning and decision-making capabilities, and even starts controlling our emotions. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia can overlap, but there are some differences which should be noted carefully in order to clearly understand the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Meaning and symptoms of Dementia
As stated earlier, Dementia is not a disease but clinical representation or symptom of a disease. There are around 200 types of Dementia of which Alzheimer’s is a part. So if you are told that you have Dementia, it does not mean you have Alzheimer’s but may suffer other types of Dementia like Parkinson’s, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Bodies Dementia (LBD), or even mixed Dementia where a person suffers from more than one type of Dementia, etc.
People are more likely to suffer from dementia as they age. Its symptoms include:
- Memory loss/forgetfulness
Forgetting names, the location of important places, important things that you might need on a daily basis, etc.
- Changes in mood (depression or anxiety)
Drastic changes in emotions. One starts to lose control over their emotions. Depression & anxiety are common phenomena.
- Lack of motivation and focus
Start losing hope and focus. Nothing inspires you or motivates you.
- Difficulty with reasoning, judgments, and decisions
Inability to give proper reasoning or judgments. Taking decisions also become a critical task.
- Inadequate hygiene
Not able to manage your personal hygiene like forgetting to brush teeth, or how to bath, problems in dressing, eating, keeping surroundings clean.
- Repetition of questions
You keep on repeating the same questions because you can’t remember whether you already know the answer or if you have already asked the questions.
Early symptoms are easy to overlook as they include minor remembering and memory problems. However, with time the difficulty and problems start to escalate. Patients have a hard time in remembering things and in taking care of themselves and therefore become increasingly dependent on their family members and relatives.
Meaning and symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that slowly and gradually affects our reasoning and memory. While to some extent Dementia is treatable and reversible, such thing is not possible in Alzheimer’s. It is incurable, but there are options to manage it. Around 60-80% people who are suffering from Dementia, have Alzheimer’s. Its symptoms get worse with time and generally appear after 60 years of age. Its symptoms include:
- Difficulty in remembering
It becomes extremely difficult to remember names and conversations.
- Memory impairment
There is a significant level of memory loss.
- Behavioural changes and growing confusion
Your behaviour becomes very aggressive as you are unable to remember things. Irritation, depression, panic attacks are common.
- Losing one’s identity
You start to forget your own name, the identity like who you are, how you were as a person, names and relevant knowledge of your family, husband, children, your home address. You tend to lose self-confidence, self-esteem, with the passing time.
- Difficulty in carrying out important daily tasks
You can’t remember important daily tasks like bathing, dressing, eating.
Some types of Dementia might share some of these symptoms like LBD (Lewy Body Dementia) includes some of the Alzheimer’s symptoms like hallucinations, changes in thinking, reasoning and growing confusion. Keep in mind the different symptoms between Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Different treatment patterns for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Treatment of Dementia depends on the kind of Dementia and the cause of it. Once the cause is found, you can start with the treatment and counselling. While there is no said cure for Alzheimer’s disease, once its symptoms start to appear nothing can be done to reverse them or stop them. But there are some tests which can be done to determine the cause of it.
Like acetylcholine for memory and learning.
- Medicines for memory loss
Aricept, Exelon, and memantine (tablet for memory loss).
- Home remedies
Like coconut oil, fish oil for improving brain activity.
Doctors can prescribe medication for another symptom of depression, sleep problems, etc.
It deals with behavioral problems like aggression, depression and socially inappropriate conduct.
- Modifying the environment
It includes home modification like removing any sharp object, removing harmful chemicals, bed and bathroom safety rail, etc.
While for some people the difference between Alzheimer’s and Dementia is clear, many still consider them as interchangeable terms. Thus, the most important need is to create awareness so that the difference between the two is cleared. With the increasing awareness, it might lead to increase in the research funding so that better cure and treatment can be introduced to people’s well being.